if I watch you play that for a minute?”
than once, strangers would stop, do a double-take, then ask a variation of that question when we were playing Virtua Tennis 4: World Tour Edition. We were happy to
oblige, too. It simply looks that good, with colors fairly bursting off the
beautiful Vita screen. It ain’t the launch goggles talking, either; even
20-plus hours in, we’re still smiling at how beautiful it is. From every angle,
the action is smooth, crisp and clear.
more, the tennis court is simply alive,
bursting with activity. Ball boys charge after their prey the second a point is
over while judges move to their assigned spots during the action. As big
matches play to large audiences, the crowd can be seen and heard reacting
appropriately. It may sound trivial, but when you add that onto the
already-gorgeous visuals and strong gameplay, Virtua Tennis’ appeal
of gameplay, it’s solid and deep. Unlike other tennis titles, timing and good
positioning aren’t the only thing; although that’s very important, there’s much
more going on. When you hit strong shots based around your particular player’s
strengths, you build up a Super Shot that can prove deadly. Choosing to use
your ultimate weapon is a key strategy that, when successful, can help you in big
situations. It’s not necessarily a “win” button - we had plenty of them
returned - but more often than not it can secure a key moment in your favor.
in real tennis, the court types play a significant role. If you’re a big
hitter, you need to play back a bit on hard courts to crank up power forehands,
but on grass the same positioning will cause you problems. Being steady on your
feet also gives you the best chance at a winner, which is easier to do on flat
tops than clay. The constant need to change up the approach always kept us on
Tennis’ biggest strength, though, is its Career mode. Easily the best of any
current tennis franchise, it’s executed beautifully on the Vita. Your created
player is sent on a multi-year journey with the goal of reaching the top of the
tennis rankings, and doing so involves a combination of choices and execution.
Your short-term goals are making it to prestigious competitions, which you can
only qualify for with a particular status. You can choose to enter events to
boost that status, or train in mini-games that improve your attributes (which,
naturally, is pretty important too). All the while, you have to be sure to move
quickly enough through the calendar to make it to the major tournaments that
cap each season.
only is the strategy of picking and choosing how to navigate the career
brilliant, but each step along the way is engaging, varied, and perfectly
bite-sized. The training exercises are less than two minutes, while matches can
usually take under five. Even so, a full career will easily stretch ten or more
hours, but it doesn’t come close to dragging. In fact, by the time we realized
late in our first career we’d made some poor choices, it simply served as
motivation to start another one and take a different approach.
your career winds its way across the world, the difficulty increases
incrementally and never feels cheap. Virtua Tennis also never takes itself too
seriously, as evidenced by occasional events featuring players in costumes or
tournaments taking place on cruise ships and futuristic arenas. The only real
drawback of Career mode are the pointless doubles matches, a holdover from past
Virtua Tennis games that are diminished this go-round but still present. It’s
just not fun to play with and against 3 CPU-controlled players; the matches
become interminable. Let’s be clear too – if you’ve played a ton of the console
version of Virtua Tennis 4, most of this is very familiar.
nice roster of male and female current players is offset by a lack of licensed
tournaments, the only real missing link of Virtua Tennis. The juxtaposition of
all the real-life players in fake events is strange. Online play is available
over wi-fi, and works fairly well. Getting a ranked match against a random
player is pretty easy, and you actually play the Arcade mode while you wait.
Our only complaint about online is the lag on serves; there’s a delay at the
button press, and it threw us off. Otherwise, online performed admirably.
Tennis 4 is a gorgeous, deep title that makes us happy to have our Vita – even
if we have to deal with strangers watching us over our shoulders. It’s a small
price to play for a heck of a game.